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                                    Fall 2012 Course Syllabus

                  Lecture: NFLM 3154        No Exit: French Film Noir            7941     6-7:50Pm

Screening: NFLM 0154 A:            No Exit Screening Series             7942     8-10PM

Room A-002 (in the basement of 66 West 12th Street)


“We do not do what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are -- that is the fact." 

                        Jean-Paul Sartre



It rains in the street as it rains in my heart…in the dark and faithless universe of French Film Noir, men and women make and must live with their moral choices, no matter what the consequences. French Film Noir echoes its American counterpart by using pulp fiction and violent crime to frame profound and enduring philosophical and moral questions. Immersing in French post-war movies, history and philosophy, this course examines the relationship between theme, narrative and cinematic style in French Film Noir.


“Where there are two, one betrays.”

                                    Jean-Pierre Melville


No Exit spans 70 years of Films Noir, and presents breakthrough Noir regarding race (Police; A Prophet) and female empowerment (Nil pour nil contre). Students will read in authors identified with Existentialism, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, William Barrett and Andy Martin. We will study the history of France during World War II and during the end of France’s colonial period.

No Exit: The Hard-Boiled Heartbreak of French Film Noir will explore the grand themes of Noir: how those that live outside the law must be honest; the inevitability of betrayal; sexual combat between men and women; the slippery nature of truth; the futility of effort; the soul-destruction of capitalism and the enduring cinematic seduction of violent crime, car chases, urban shoot-outs and amoral love. Each film is a textbook presentation of the themes of Existentialism: the necessity that each come to terms with his or her choices, and accept that their lives are only as they have made them. Well, them and the most cruel of mistresses, Fate. We will also focus on cinematic technique, including direction, performance, soundtrack, cinematography, mise-en-scene and editing.


            “I’ve been studying Existentialism for years and I still don’t know what it is. I do know this much, though: it’s cool. I think [existentialism] examines the paradox between the fact that everyone tries to do well but that few, if any, succeed.”

                                                            David Mamet


Readings will include selections from THE AFTERMATH OF WAR by Jean-Paul Sartre and from IRRATIONAL MAN by William Barrett; THE STRANGER by Albert Camus and THE BOXER AND THE GOALKEEPER by Andy Martin. We will read the French film critics who gave Noir its name and who understood the complex universe these deceptively simple crime films sought to portray. Home rental films will include other films made by featured directors and a thorough grounding in American Film Noir.

No Exit: The Hard-Boiled Heartbreak of French Film Noir will showcase the films of Jacques Becker, Henri-George Clouzot, Jules Dassin, Jean-luc Godard, Mathieu Kassovitz, Jean-Pierre Melville and Maurice Pialat, among others. With La Femme Nikita and Nil pour nil contre, we’ll study the first Films Noir to feature women protagonists.  

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Each week includes a lecture/discussion followed by a full-length film screening. In addition to films screened in class, credit students will rent one film per week to watch at home.

                  • New School students can rent films at NYU’s Bobst Library and at all NY Public Libraries

                  • All rentals are available by mail from Netflix

                  • Streaming video sources – when available – are listed below after the rental title

• All rentals (except Caught) are available at Video Free Brooklyn 244 Smith Street Cobble Hill (718) 855-6130


There will be a Screening Section at 8PM on August 29th, the first night of class.


                                    No Exit Screening and Rental List


August 29: Le Corbeau (The Raven) – Henri-George Clouzot (1942)

Rental: L'armée des ombres (Army of Shadows) (France Jean-Pierre Melville 1969) Amazon Instant Video


September 5: Le Salaire de la Peur (Wages of Fear) – Henri-George Clouzot (1953)

Rental: SORCERER (USA William Friedkin 1977)


September 12:  rififi – Jules Dassin (1955)

Rental: NIGHT AND THE CITY (United Kingdom Jules Dassin 1950)


September 19: BOB LE FLAMBEUR (Bob the Gambler) - Jean-Pierre Melville (1955) Rental: KISS ME DEADLY (USA Robert Aldrich 1955)  + Kawaita hana {PALE FLOWER} (Japan 1964 Masahiro Shinoda) Hulu Plus


September 26: Yom Kippur; There will be no class


October 3: LES DIABOLIQUES (The Devils) – Henri-George Clouzot (1955)

Rental: CAUGHT (USA Max Olphus 1949) Netflix Instant


October 10: Le Trou  (The Hole) – Jacques Becker (1960)

Rental: ANIMAL FACTORY (USA Steve Buscemi 2000) Netflix Instant


October 17: CLASSE TOUS RISQUES (The Big Risk) – Claude Sautet (1960)

Rental: Touchez pas au grisbi {Don’t Touch the Loot} (France Claude Sautet 1954)


October 24: Le Doulos (The Finger man) – Jean-Pierre Melville (1961)

Rental: Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) (France Louis Malle 1957) Hulu Plus


October 31: ALPHAVILLE - Jean-luc Godard (1965)

Rental: FORCE OF EVIL (USA Abraham Polonsky 1948)


November 7: LE DEUXIÉME SOUFFLE  (The Second Breath) – Jean Pierre Melville (1966) Rental: POINT BLANK (USA John Boorman 1965) Amazon Instant Video


November 14: LE SAMOURAI (The Samurai) - Jean-Pierre Melville (1967)

Rental: DRIVE (USA Nicholas Winding Refn 2011) Netflix Instant


Please Note: There will be no class on Wednesday, November 21; class will be held on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20 at the usual time and place.


November 20: POLICE – Maurice Pialat (1985)

Rental: LA FEMME NIKITA – (France Luc Besson (1990)


November 28: LA HAINE (The Hate) – Mathieu Kassovitz (1995)

Rental: DEEP COVER (USA Bill Duke 1992) Amazon Instant Video


December 5: NIL POUR NIL CONTRE (BIEN AU CONTRAIRE) (Neither For Nor Against) – Cédric Klapisch (2002)

Rental: THIEF (USA Michael Mann 1981) Netflix Instant


December 12: A PROPHET - Jacques Audiard (2009)




Learning Outcomes

1)     Students will be expected to discourse and write knowledgably on the content and meaning of the assigned reading.

2)     Students should demonstrate in their classroom discussion and written assignments an increased comprehension of each director’s methods of visual narrative, and how that visual narrative informs each film’s themes and ideas.

3)     Students should demonstrate in their classroom discussion and written assignments an increased comprehension of how the assigned reading illuminates the narrative and thematic material of each film.

4)     Students should demonstrate in their classroom discussion and written assignments an increased comprehension of the techniques of filmmaking discussed in class.

5)     Students should demonstrate in their classroom discussion and written assignments increased insight into the culture, morals, philosophy and thematics of French Film Noir



1) Students will rent one film each week to watch at home or students will be assigned to see a film playing in theaters. Rental records or ticket receipts must be given to the professor

Ticket stubs or rental receipts must be turned in to the professor.

2) Students will read THE STRANGER by Albert Camus (Matthew Ward Translation only - $5.75 on; IRRATIONAL MAN: A STUDY IN EXISTENTIAL PHILOSOPHY by William Barrett ($0.94 on; THE BOXER AND THE GOALKEEPER by Andy Martin (US price not yet announced) and THE AFTERMATH OF WAR by Jean-Paul Sartre ($5.10) on The professor will write weekly film notes. We will also read other film critics and scholars.

3) Students will write a one-page (250 words) journal entry or short essay every week on an assigned topic. Papers will drop one full grade for every week they are late.

4) Students will write one 1000-word paper interpreting the films of their choice in light of the readings and class discussion. Final paper subjects will be discussed and if the student prefers, a topic can be assigned. Term papers are due the next to last class session. Late term papers will drop one full grade.

5) Participation in class discussion forms a significant part of the grade. If a student prefers not to participant in class, he or she may email the professor in confidence and ask to be excused from joining in class participation. The professor will not call upon any student who asks to be excused from speaking (though you are welcome to join the discussion if you like); the student will be assigned to write one extra 250-word journal entry each week as a make-up assignment for not speaking.


Only two absences are permitted. After two absences, students will lose one full grade.

• Credit students must attend all Screenings; the same absence policy applies. If you miss more than two screenings you will lose one full grade.

• Students must be on time for class and screenings; any student more than 10 minutes late will be counted as Absent.

• Final paper: 30% of grade

   Journals: 40% of grade

   Class participation: 30% of grade